O'Donnell case gets ‘curiouser and curiouser’ - High Court judge
A HIGH Court judge has described as "curiouser and curiouser" a number of developments in proceedings about ownership of the contents of the luxury family home of solicitor Brian O'Donnell and another luxury property in London.
Mr Justice Peter Kelly also said today he was becoming suspicious that "games" may be being played in the case and stressed he would not tolerate any abuse of the court's process.
The judge granted orders permitting a solicitor, Paul Kerrigan, to cease representing Brian O'Donnell, his wife Mary Patricia and three companies linked to Mr O'Donnell, two registered in the Isle of Man and one in Jersey.
In letters to the court, Mr Kerrigan said there had been an irretrievable breakdown of trust with those clients and instructions he hed received in recent days contradicted instructions previously given to him. He had been put in an invidious position and was no longer willing to act.
Another solicitor, Vincent Sheils, of Athenry, Co Galway, told the judge he was seeking to represent the couple and the companies, had received some instructions from Mr O'Donnell but had not spoken to anyone else connected with the companies. Mr Sheils asked for time to address matters and argued the bank would not be prejudiced as undertakings were in place not to deal with the property involved
The developments came in Commercial Court proceedings in which the bank, as part of its effort to enforce a €75m judgment against the couple, contends the O'Donnell's family home at Gorse Hill, Killiney, Co Dublin, and another luxury property at Barton Street, London, are owned by the couple and not by trusts as the couple allege.
The bank's case is against the couple, their four adult chidlren (as alleged beneficiaries of the trusts) and the three companies.
The proceedings were before Mr Justice Kelly to deal with a number of applications and Paul Gardiner SC, for the bank, sought a declaratory order against the companies over their failure to file a defence. Counsel also complained the children had still filed no defence despite having been given additional time to do so.
The bank was trying to work through "a web of companies, asserted trusts and solicitors coming and going", he said.
Ross Maguire SC, for the children, said they wanted particulars of the bank's claims the trusts were a sham before they could file their defence.
The "bigger picture" in this case was that Mr and Mrs O'Donnell appeared to have been borowing money from Bank of Ireland on an almost unsecured basis based on statements of net worth of 2006 and 2007 , counsel said. At the heart of those statements were claims by Mr O'Donnell he owned Gorse Hill when that was not true and the children's property was being affected by their parents with the knowledge of the bank, he added.
Having heard from the parties, the judge said, as the author Lewis Carroll would say, the behaviour of the defendants in this case "gets curiouser and curiouser".
He was coming to the conclusion attempts were being made to play games with the court and he was obliged to ensure there were no such games or abuse of process, he said. Plaintiffs as well as defendants have rights, he added
He directed that, unless the companies file a defence to the proceedings by 4pm on Thursday, he would grant the bank a declaratory order against the companies - Vico Ltd, Chancery Trustees Ltd and Vico Barton Ltd - that the Gorse Hill and Barton Street properties are owned by Brian and Mary Patricia O'Donnell.
Any defence should be accompanied by verifying affidavits from an officer of the companies, he added
The judge also gave the children until 4pm on Thursday to enter their defences in the case. While it was argued they needed particulars, they had had the bank's statement of claim since May 18 and, even if the case was in the ordinary High Court list, they would have had to file a defence by now, the judge said.
While was argued the children needed more information on the trusts, all they had to do was talk to their father as settlor of the trusts, the judge added.